Codan The Librarian

Archive for the ‘Library Science’ Category

Two articles recently on some issues libraries are dealing with, mostly public libraries.

Lock the Library!

Many public libraries are experiencing a huge influx of middle school students who really have no place else to go after school. I saw this at Queens Public Library in New York City. The Central Library would be overrun with students just hanging out, some acting pretty childish, while some were actually using the library. Queens Library had strong security presence, which I think did a good job at keeping the rowdiness down. Over in Maplewood, New Jersey, though, they are apparently having a really tough time with these kids:

Others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.

As a result, starting on Jan. 16, the Maplewood Memorial Library will be closing its two buildings on weekdays from 2:45 to 5 p.m., until further notice.

An institution that, like many nationwide, strives to attract young people, even offering beading and cartooning classes, will soon be shutting them out, along with the rest of the public, at one of the busiest parts of its day.

Library employees will still be on the job, working at tasks like paperwork, filing, and answering calls and online questions.

“They almost knocked me down, and they run in and out,” said Lila Silverman, a Maplewood resident who takes her grandchildren to the library’s children’s room but called the front of the library “a disaster area” after school. “I do try to avoid those hours.”

I wonder where these kids are going to go now though. I’d be curious to see the results of this action.

And on another front….

Hello Grisham – So Long, Hemingway?

You can’t find “Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings” at the Pohick Regional Library anymore. Or “The Education of Henry Adams” at Sherwood Regional. Want Emily Dickinson’s “Final Harvest”? Don’t look to the Kingstowne branch.

It’s not that the books are checked out. They’re just gone. No one was reading them, so librarians took them off the shelves and dumped them.

Along with those classics, thousands of novels and nonfiction works have been eliminated from the Fairfax County collection after a new computer software program showed that no one had checked them out in at least 24 months.

Public libraries have always weeded out old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. But the region’s largest library system is taking turnover to a new level.

Like Borders and Barnes & Noble, Fairfax is responding aggressively to market preferences, calculating the system’s return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves — and figuring out which products will generate the biggest buzz. So books that people actually want are easy to find, but many books that no one is reading are gone — even if they are classics.

“We’re being very ruthless,” said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. “A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that’s a cost.”

This is a challenge for all libraries. The irony of our modern world is that some thought the rise of computers would push books out of the picture, but instead, we’ve probably published more books in these past ten years than in the previous ten years. Libraries have limited space, because they have limited budgets. Libraries are not a profitable institution. But the way they can get more money from public financing is if they prove a higher readership. How can you have a higher readership with books no one reads in a two year period?

I wonder if libraries should go for-profit….